Campus ministry is vital in a college student’s life. Craig Allison, the campus minister at Central Church of Christ in Chattanooga, TN answers some questions on campus ministry.
What is the real culprit of our young, losing sight of their faith?
- FAILURE TO CONNECT CHRIST: We have failed to show them while they are in high school that their spirituality is not just about fun youth outings. Laser tag, pizza parties, lock-ins, bowling…these are all good, but if that is the only thing they do in their youth group while in high school, they will arrive at college completely deluded and unprepared for the spiritual challenges that await. They need to know that Living in Christ and being Alive in Christ are not found at the end of a laser gun. This requires real planning from church leadership with specific targeted outcomes. It is purposeful and intentional. Bible studies that do not just end with a feel good song and prayer. There must be a connection between the Biblical lesson and the world. For example, a month dedicated to learning about the beatitudes should be followed up with carefully planned service activities either within the church or the community. Something like this does not get planned in a week or two. It takes time, thought and dedication. We can’t expect good results with minimal effort-garbage in, garbage out. Our kids are coming to college without a real understanding of why and how they should be connected to Christ and their faith.
- FAILURE TO CREATE COMPLEXITY: Any finance neophyte will tell you that a strong financial portfolio will be diversified. I see many college freshmen arrive who have been completely isolated for their entire church life. The only relationships that they have developed are within their own peer group. The only connection to their church family is others their own age. These students inevitably fall away early on. They are swept up by the world because they lack relational complexity. Churches are missing a vital opportunity to engage their youth and expose them to inter-generational activities. Connecting the youth with young professionals, middle aged and seniors are vital to that youth’s spiritual well being. When congregations fail to incorporate a program that integrates their high school students with other generations, they are failing them in a big way. These incoming college freshmen need to have these connections back home. They need to get phone calls, texts, packages, letters and encouragement from a variety of people at their home church. This complexity of relational dynamics grounds them to their faith and reinforces their sense of belonging to the body of Christ at large. They see that they truly are a vital piece within the Christian family. I think it is important to understand the new paradigm that is their reality. Social media has changed the game entirely. There is a ton of new data emerging that is linking the arrival of the iphone and MANY social and psychological issues. It is changing the way our youth views relationships. It is changing their self-esteem and rearranging the entire landscape of how we build relationships and interact with them.
- FAILURE IN CARING TO CONNECT: Over the last five years I have received two phone calls from a youth minister regarding some students who would be attending the University where I am the campus minister. Just two. It may not be true, but the message this sends is that once a high school senior graduates, they are no longer the youth minister’s responsibility. This is a shame because the fact is, the YM knows their kid much better than I do at that point. I know these new college students care a lot about what their YM back home thinks. It matters to them if their YM is still looking out for them after they leave. It reinforces to them that you want them to remain faithful, even though they are no longer there every day. I am genuinely concerned that so few of the youth ministers who played such an important role in the lives of these young Christians do not follow up on their kids. I had a parent call me one time who had been told by their daughter that she was actively engaged in our campus ministry and at church. I had never heard of this young lady. She had never stepped foot in our facility. Maybe there is nothing I could have done to change this situation even if I knew that she was on our campus, but to not even have the chance is shameful. The world is well equipped to entice and pull away our kids. We owe it to them to provide any defense we can. Campus ministries are there for a reason. As college campus ministers we need to know that a student is coming our way. They deserve an opportunity for you and I to offer them an alternative to all the other stuff that will bombard them. You know as well as I that this is impossible if we don’t know they are on campus.
How have our homes/families lead to fewer faithful young adults?
This is related to the above question. For various reasons (lots of good research on this…again, linked to social media) our current college generation abhors a disingenuous character, and is starved for real relationships. I have talked to many new college students who struggle with their faith because they saw their mom and dad “pretending” to be Christians. These kids are smart. They know what fake looks like and so when they see their parents living a life at home that does not put Christ first, but then go to church for appearance sake, it turns them off to religion. Churches are feeling the brunt of this as kids are leaving in droves in search of a spiritual connection that is genuine and meaningful to them (not the picture perfect snaps, insta’s, FB, etc…). Unfortunately, they are finding what they believe to be a genuine form of spirituality in surface level emotionality (Worshiptainment). It feels good but is lacking in substance and prohibits real growth. This works for a while, but they begin to realize (not all of them) that this is just spiritual junk food. They get frustrated and finally give up. They begin to believe a church that is genuine, challenges them to grow their faith in all areas, and pursues them relationally, does not exist.
Craig Allison started doing campus ministry in the Fall of 2012. He was previously an Environmental Health and Safety Director of 19 years. Given the opportunity of being the global director for the company, he was given the offer to work as a campus minister that same week. He works with the Christian Student Center at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.